TURNING POINT: Gray fires late winner to secure three points for Everton
PA - Martin Rickett
Everton’s winless run came to an end in dramatic fashion as Demarai Gray’s stoppage-time strike secured a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Arsenal at Goodison Park.
The visitors took the lead through Martin Odegaard’s volley at the end of the first half, moments after Richarlison had a goal disallowed for offside following a VAR check.
Richarlison had another goal ruled out by VAR just before the hour mark, before he drew the Toffees level with a 79th-minute header when Gray’s shot came back off the bar.
Gray then secured Everton’s first victory in nine Premier League outings by sending an effort in off the post in the second minute of additional time.
The game ended with the crowd in delirium, having earlier seen some Everton fans leaving their seats in a protest over the running of the club.
It came a day on from Marcel Brands leaving his role as Everton’s director of football, and the club saying boss Rafael Benitez would continue to receive owner Farhad Moshiri and the board’s “full support” in the aftermath of last Wednesday’s painful 4-1 derby loss to Liverpool.
While Everton – up from 16th to 12th in the table – savoured a much-needed return to winning ways, it was a second successive loss for Mikel Arteta’s seventh-placed Arsenal, after the 3-2 reverse at Manchester United.
The opening stages of the contest were low on action, with Gray and Abdoulaye Doucoure shooting off-target for the hosts either side of Thomas Partey doing the same at the other end.
The 27th minute then saw a small number of Everton fans perform a demonstration by leaving their seats – come 2022 it will be 27 years since they last won a trophy.
A banner was also once again unfurled in the Gwladys Street End, reading: ‘We demand nil satis nisi optimum, it’s about time our club did too’, referring to Everton’s motto that translates as ‘nothing but the best is good enough’.
Meanwhile, a VAR check was undertaken after Ben Godfrey’s boot caught Takehiro Tomiyasu in the face, with the verdict being no action against the England defender.
Then Yerry Mina, who had returned to the Everton side after a hamstring injury for a first appearance since October 2, was forced to come off, heading straight down the tunnel and being replaced by Mason Holgate.
The moment of fans walking out had been accompanied by considerable, mixed noise from those still in their places, and huge cheers then rang around the ground in the 44th minute when Richarlison headed beyond Aaron Ramsdale from Andros Townsend’s free-kick.
But that was short-lived as a VAR check saw the effort disallowed for offside – and moments later it was Arsenal fans celebrating as Odegaard volleyed in having been teed up by Kieran Tierney.
Richarlison then had the ball in the net again 12 minutes after the break, only to once again be adjudged, via VAR, to have been offside as he fired in.
Arsenal were back on the attack soon after and Gabriel Martinelli lofted the ball onto the roof of the net from a tight angle as he tried to go around Jordan Pickford.
It then proved a case of third time lucky for Richarlison as he equalised in the 79th minute, heading in on the follow up after Gray had curled a shot against the bar.
That brought a rapturous response from the crowd, and there was more to follow in the final stages.
Gunners substitute Eddie Nketiah hit the post with a header in the 84th minute before Gray cut in from the left and hit a shot from just outside the box that went in off the far post.
There could have been another for Everton but former Gunner Alex Iwobi, who had come off the bench, saw his shot blocked by Ramsdale, and Arsenal substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then shot wide in the final seconds.
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